Community Research and Development Information Service - CORDIS

Strengthening mental health systems in Africa and Asia

There is a high demand for mental health services worldwide, especially in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) where the disease burden that is due to mental disorders is particularly high. An EU initiative aims to reduce the considerable treatment gap in several African and Asian countries.
Strengthening mental health systems in Africa and Asia
On average, LMICs allocate less than 2% of their health budget to resources and services for the treatment and prevention of mental disorders. As a result, the majority of people with mental health problems are left untreated in these countries.

With EU funding, the 'Emerging mental health systems in low- and middle-income countries' (EMERALD) programme seeks to identify the main barriers to effective provision of mental health services and offer solutions for improved delivery. It thereby intends to strengthen the knowledge base in order to optimise mental health systems in practice. The programme focuses on the integrated planning, implementation, assessment and sustainability of local mental health systems in Ethiopia, India, Nepal, Nigeria, South Africa and Uganda.

The programme is also building up the research capacity and improving the skills of professionals and policymakers in mental health system strengthening, as well as increasing service user and caregiver involvement. It is doing so mainly through short courses and workshops, development of graduate degree curricula and training materials, PhD fellowships, MSc studentships and tailored training.

Needs assessments and situational analyses were performed for researchers, policymakers, planners, service users and caregivers in the areas of policy, practice, initiatives and strategies at the beginning of the programme.

Project members addressed health system resources and funding issues by employing tools that measure the costs and impacts of service provision. They also carried out a survey to assess the economic effects of any unmet mental health requirements for affected persons and their families.

Policymakers, planners and health workers were interviewed to identify best practices in the design and operation of mental health schemes from district through to national levels.

The team is also identifying and developing a set of performance indicators that will measure and monitor health systems.

Programme efforts will result in improved local and national mental health systems and policies for the six countries in Africa and Asia. The health and socioeconomic impacts of EMERALD should be felt for years to come.

Related information


Mental health, mental health systems, low- and middle-income countries, treatment gap, mental disorders
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